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LawCrossing Feature

The Case of Mehta and Application of the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine by Surajit Sen Sharma

The case of disbarred attorney Mahendra R. Mehta v. Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of Supreme Court of Illinois is of importance for obvious reasons, but more than its disciplinary angle, the question of law settled by the United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit bears upon the concept of ‘finality of judgment’ and the application of the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine. The court held that the nature of ‘interim order’ inherent in the application of Rule 774 was final “until further order of the court.” The appellate court held that the qualifying clause “until further order of the court” did not reduce the finality of the order unless a separately initiated case in a higher forum or the Supreme Court supersedes that order.

In the instant case submitted and decided on March 21,

Board, the Administrator petitioned the Illinois Supreme

2012, the court upheld a suspension order as the final

Court to suspend Mehta’s license under its Rule 774(a).

judgment of a state court and affirmed that the district

The concerned Supreme Court clerk assigned a docket

court’s judgment pertaining to dismissal of the suit was

number to the petition and issued a show cause to

valid under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.

Mehta as to why he should not be suspended. Mehta submitted that other proceedings against him should

The case in nutshell is that the debarred attorney

remain suspended until the Commission’s Review

contended his right to due process was violated by

Board resolved the issue of the Hearing Board’s

an order of the Illinois Supreme Court suspending his

recommendation. However, the Supreme Court was

license to practice law. The district court dismissed

unimpressed and issued a mandate on December 29,

Mehta’s complaint under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine

2010 that Mehta’s license be suspended with immediate

holding that the suspension order was the final

effect and ‘until further order of the Court.”

judgment of a state court and the district court lacked jurisdiction to hear the complaint against it. The court

While the Commission Review Board was yet to come

of appeals found the district court to be right.

to any decision, Mehta sued in federal district court alleging that the suspension issued by the Supreme

The case started with the Administrator of the

Court violated his right to due process of law. He also

Commission filing a disciplinary complaint against

pleaded that the Supreme Court’s interim order created

Mehta in 2008. A three-day evidentiary hearing by a

‘constitutional bias’ in the review that was still pending

Hearing Board appointed by the Commission found

upon the original recommendation of disbarring him.

Mehta had violated four rules of professional conduct

He asked the district court to vacate the order and

and recommended that he be disbarred. Mehta was

dismiss the underlying disciplinary complaint. Five days

found guilty of converting more than $100,000 in real-

before the district court reached its decision, the Illinois

estate escrow funds and of lying to an Illinois court

Supreme Court, in a separately filed petition accepted

about his authority to take the funds from his client.

the Hearing Board’s recommendation to disbar Mehta. Following the Supreme Court’s decision the district

During the pending of an review upon the Commission’s

court held that it lacked jurisdiction in the subject-

recommendation in front of the Commission’s Review

matter under the Rooker-Feldman doctrine.

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THE LARGEST COLLECTION OF LEGAL JOBS ON EARTH

LawCrossing Feature

On appeal from the district court decision the appellate

However, the appellate court remarked that the only

court found that the district court was right and

course of action, which Mehta had missed, but was

Rooker-Feldman barred the suit in as much as it applies

open to him under the circumstances, was a petition for

to “cases brought by state-court losers complaining

certiorari with the Supreme Court of the United States.

of injuries caused by state-court judgments rendered

See Kan. City S. Ry. Co. v. Koeller, 653 F.3d 496, 503

before the district court proceedings commenced …”

(7th Cir. 2011), cert. denied, 132 S.Ct. 855 (2011).

(Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 284 (2005)).

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The Case of Mehta and Application of the Rooker-Feldman Doctrine  

The case of Mahendra R. Mehta v. Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of Supreme Court of Illinois shows the concept of ‘finali...